Saturday, May 12, 2007

Backstage Pass

Musicians and fans mix freely at most Japanese rock events, but you can always tell who the performers are because they are the ones that have backstage pass stickers stuck to their jeans or wherever else on their wardrobe they decided to park them.

The stickers are usually made of a shiny fabric and say the name of the club, and the musicians write on it what unit they belong to. Clubs issue them to make sure customers don't get in for free passing themselves off as entertainers at events, where it's not unusual for there to be a couple of dozen musicians.

Many musicians treat old stickers as a memento of past performances, and you often see guys cover their metal brief cases (containing effect pedals) with used backstage passes.

Maybe when band members get the backstage pass for a bigger club like the Que or Loft or Quattro, they feel like they are going places.

They must really feel they've gotten somewhere when a big club doesn't ask them to put on a backstage pass because they're now so famous that all the staff recognize them. But, of course, hardly any musicians get that far.


I was bitching about the lousy state of Tokyo live houses in a previous post, but then last night I went to a club that was pretty ideal. It was called the Mosaic in Shimokitazawa. Several things I liked about the place: first, it's divided into two floors, with the basement the live space and the ground floor a bar with a TV that broadcasts the show going on downstairs. So, if the band playing doesn't interest you, you can go up for a drink in the bar, but then if the band looks good after all on the TV, you can descend the stairs again. Mosaic isn't the only club with this sort of set-up (the O-Nest in Shibuya has two floors too), but most aren't like this—it's a great thing if the club has the space.

Mosaic also looks nice with an all-white-colored live space, has good sound, and the staff is friendly.


The bands I saw at the Mosaic were Yuyake Lamp, a one-girl three-guy pop group named the 606, and vocalist Roco. The 606 was good, but I felt they could improve their stage presentation: the female vocalist/keyboardist sat at the very right while the three ordinary-looking guy musicians took up the rest of the stage, resulting in an out-of-balance look. Maybe if the bass on the very left of the stage were really unusual-looking, say, more than 2 meters tall and muscle-packed, with rainbow-colored dreads and donning schoolboy shorts, the left-right visual balance would have been better.

Roco was Only-In-Japan: a kogyaru(-like) lounge jazz vocalist. She'd sing nice pop-jazz, then between songs she'd talk in that abbreviated, hyper, alien Japanese of the very young, about subjects such as her favorite sort of cake. Or, maybe she's quite normal and the problem is aging me...

Yuyake Lamp I've written about many times, they are one of my favorite bands, but at this show during some moment I felt vocalist Yunn's voice sweep over me like waves, like her emotions caused the laws of the physics of sound to become manifest. Someone who possesses neither an especially powerful voice nor remarkable formal singing skills, Yunn is nevertheless a great vocalist.

P.S. These illustrations don't have anything to do with the text. Just some random fliers I was handed at the Mosaic show...

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